Objectives: To examine how children with autism’s attention abilities are controlled when the cue to disengage must be self-generated versus externally cued, providing a better representation of their shifting capabilities in their everyday interactions with the environment.
Methods: Numbers and durations of eye fixations are compared to typically developing children matched for age and verbal ability. Children were presented with two separate images on the right and left sides of a screen. Stimuli were divided into high (man reciting story), low (man counting) and non-linguistic (mouestrap) conditions, which were further categorized by high and low emotion.
Results: If disengagement of attention is an in-line problem, effecting more than the first attention shift, then number of and time between fixations should be fewer and longer for the autism group; stimulus type and emotion level may also iinfluence the findings (Bahrick et-al., IMFAR poster 2007). Data are collected and currently being analyzed.
Conclusions: This study addresses an important difference between attention skills in tasks which require frequent disengagement and shifting of attention (“in-line attention”) versus single-shift paradigms.